Tottenham Hotspur’s biggest weakness under Antonio Conte has been in defense, which is perhaps surprising given his reputation as a tactical genius who is always defensively sound.
He won the Premier League with Chelsea and ended Inter Milan’s near-decade-long drought of not winning the Serie A.
With the top four seemingly their ceiling, the Lilywhites have proven to be his toughest test in the managerial dugout, though if he’s to elevate them to the next level, defensive additions will likely be the priority in the summer.
However, you can’t help but think that if chairman Daniel Levy had listened to former manager Jose Mourinho, who was keen to sign Kim Min-Jae, who is now starring for current Italian leader Napoli, the Italian would be better stocked.
During the recent transfer window, the Portuguese revealed his desire to sign the South Korean colossus ahead of his AS Roma team.
“Let me tell you about one of their players. “I spoke to him on FaceTime and wanted to buy him at Tottenham, but Tottenham refused to help me,” Mourinho explained (via Football Italia).
“The player cost €10m, Tottenham offered 5. A deal could be done for €7-8 million, but Tottenham couldn’t spend money at the time. I talked to the lad on FaceTime two or three times; he really wanted to come, but he couldn’t.”
Min-Jae left his home country and domestic giants Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors for China in a $6 million (£5 million) deal in 2019.
before Fenerbahce paid only €3 million (£2.65 million) for his signature in 2021.
Gli Azzurri then signed him for €18 million (£16 million), and he has since established himself as one of Serie A’s best central defenders, with Naples leading the league in both points and goals conceded.
The 23-year-old, who stands 6 feet 3 inches tall, would have been an ideal fit for Conte’s typically unbreakable defensive structure, a system that relies on limiting the opposition’s chances.
Instead, he has Eric Dier, Ben Davies, and Davinson Sanchez on his team. And Clement Lenglet is on loan.
Min-Jae is Luciano Spalletti’s highest-rated center-back this season, combining his titan-like stature with impressive ball-playing tendencies to average 2.65 points per game when he’s on the field.
His passing accuracy of 90.2%, according to FBref, is higher than all of Spurs’ current regular starters, and his average of 4.10 clearances and 2.82 tackles and interceptions per 90 minutes is equally impressive and commanding.
Perhaps the north Londoners should go back in for the self-proclaimed “monster,” given that he has a reported €50 million (£45 million) release clause that will be activated in July of this year.
In any case, it’s clear that Mourinho was correct in bringing Min-Jae to the club’s attention. Levy must be flushed after witnessing his meteoric rise in the three or so years since he turned down the chance to sign him for as little as £6 million.
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